Media association in Serbia and its northern province of Vojvodina said on Wednesday they would not take money for projects they got from the Ministry of Culture and Information, saying the competition for funds was “entirely illegitimate.”
A statement by five organisations said the act was in protest of a new practice of project co-financing mechanism which has been moved from a local to a state level, describing it as “a catastrophe.”
The move came on the same day when European Parliament rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister expressed concern over the lack of progress regarding freedom of the media and expression.
Also, the joint statement follows a recent bitter discussion over a media strategy, and independent organisations’ decision to "probably" take part in drafting it after a meeting with Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and hope that only media experts, not politicians, would participate in creating the strategy.
“I believe we can do something now, unlike last time. Media associations will most probably return to the working group drafting the strategy,” NUNS president Slavisa Lekic said earlier.
Another reason for refusing the money, the statement said on Wednesday, was the “solidarity with the colleagues who despite their high professionalism did not get any funds due to political reasons.
”The associations warned of many irregularities and illegalities” in the competition, said the statement, adding the taxpayers' money went to “the media which work completely against public interest and are close to the regime.” It added the allocation of the budget money was decided by “phantom associations linked to the authorities” and anonymous media experts.
The statement was signed by The Independent Association of Journalists in Serbia (NUNS), Independent Journalists Association of Vojvodina (NDNV), Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), Local Press Association (LP) and Association of Online Media (AOM).
By the end of April, the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Serbia did worse in media freedom in 2018 and had been ranked 76th among 180 countries, ten places down from the last year's survey.